Back in India I cycle for two days across the totally flat and very hot Assam plain. But that is not going to last much longer. My next goal is Arunachal Pradesh, the northeastern most province of India. To travel here you need a permit and because you need to be in at least a group of two I simple buy two permits. But things get even better. Marcel who ‚lent‘ me his identity for my virtual partner suddenly has time and likes to accompany me. We meet at the border to the province and I am looking forward having a companion for some time.
Right after the border we are immediately in a dense jungle and climbing in endless curves to higher grounds. To Tawang, where we want to go first it would have been only 20km along a river from where I was in eastern Bhutan. Well, if there was a road and an open border that is of course. But now I am cycling in a huge arc over multiple mountain ranges to get there. But this very long detour is worth every kilometer.
After some smaller passes, the highlight is crossing the 4176m high Se La pass. Shortly after we have crossed the pass it starts snowing. At first we take shelter at an army camp and wait for the worst to be over. But further down the mountain it has snowed much more and soon we are riding down the pass through 10cm deep slush. The Tawang Valley welcomes us the next morning in all its glory. A wide open valley that is impossibly green and now surrounded by freshly snowed in mountains.
In Tawang we enjoy some rest days and visit the Tawang Gompa, the worlds second largest buddhist monastery. By the way, the Dalai Lama passed here on his escape from Tibet.
Marcel has to go back to Delhi and so I continue on my own to the east. The road from Seppa to Sagalee is not on my map nor on my GPS, so I have no idea how far it is going to be. I estimate it might be about 75km for the 45km as the crow flies that I should be able to do in one day. A small, very narrow road winds its way in endless curves right through an unbelievably dense jungle. Sometimes it looks as if the forest has almost swallowed it so overgrown it is.
The old surface is hardly visible any more and so it is often rough and bumpy, but never too bad. What a road, it simply is one great adventure from the first to the very last kilometer! After two very tough days I reach Sagalee and my bicycle computer shows a distance of 150km.
In the evening and at night it rains now quite often. No big problem at first, but then the bad weather gets stuck and it rains nonstop for 3 continuous days. The roads have been bumpy before but now after the rain everything is muddy and big puddles cover much of the road. More and more I have to push the bike across ankle-deep mud. Often I spend about as much time cleaning the bike constantly so I can ride it at all, as for the actual riding itself.
The hills get lower towards the east but to compensate that, they make it up in numbers. It is a fantastic ride, for days on end through these wide, dense forests. All the villages are very small with some rice paddies and made of big impressive bamboo long huts in which people live.
In Arunachal Pradesh lives is a staggering variety of tribes. Over 50 dialects are spoken in this region. Some of the most interesting live in the Ziro Valley. Because enemy tribes had often kidnapped Apatani women in the past, they started to disfigure theirs faces with tattoos and striking nose plugs. Old woman still have this face ‚decoration‘.
Early missions have been very active in this regions. Many people are christians in Arunachal Pradesh. Every now and then a small church turns up in the middle of the jungle. Or the old man who helps me pushing my bike through the deep mud. When we finally make it to the other side, all I understand is one word that he always repeats: Halleluja.
At Pasighat the road spits me out of the deep jungle and I am back in the hot plain. The Brahmaputra which has its source at Mt. Kailash in West Tibet, traveling all along the Himalaya in search of a passage to go to the south, finally comes down from the mountains here on its way to the Indian Ocean.
But it's crossing turns up to be more difficult that I thought it would be. When I reach the shore at noon I am told that the only ferry for today has already left. So a spend a very entertaining night at the local police station. Next morning the ferryman does not want to cross because the water is too shallow. After riding another 60km further down river I finally find a ferry that brings my to the other side.
The beginning of the monsoon is getting closer now and my india visa is finished. As there is also no open land border in this corner, the chapter 'Indian subcontinent' of this trip has come to an end and I start to prepare for my next goal...